By Paul Buchheit for Nation of Change – The homeless are feared by the upper classes, and they’re often arrested for nonexistent or non-violent infractions, in good part because they are simply considered “offensive” to people of means. They usually have personal problems that society has failed to address. A study of nearly 50,000 cases revealed that most deal with alcohol or drug abuse, and mental health issues. Legislating against impoverished people is expensive: shelters, emergency rooms, jail cells.
By Brian O’Connell for Business Insider – Your 17-year-old son comes home from his part-time job and says the family car he uses to get to work developed a “clunking” sound underneath the vehicle when he hits the gas pedal. Turns out he hit a pothole, and the left front tire is now damaged beyond repair. OF course, the tire rim may be damaged, too. Total cost of repair: $500. Or, you play flag football on Sunday afternoons, and you break your tibia diving for the end zone. A trip to the hospital emergency room sets the damaged leg, but not before emergency room fees hit $1,000 — and your health insurance plan’s deductible won’t cover the charge.
By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. This Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend there was a call by #BlackLivesMatter to #ReclaimMLK. Events were held all over the country responding to the call and the radical Martin Luther King, jr was brought to people’s hearts; not only the King who expressed his dream on racism, but the King who questioned the unfairness in the US capitalist economy and the long history of a foreign policy dominated by militarism. At the end of his life not only was he speaking clearly on these issues but he was organizing around poverty, planning a Poor People’s March to Washington, DC. This march continued after his death and Resurrection City, an earlier occupation of the city, that focused on poverty and economic issues. The election year of 2016 is an opportunity to push forward a Black Agenda, not by supporting any particular candidate but by pushing all candidates. We must push to make up for the disinvestment and racially unfair treatment of black communities.
By Chris Hedges for Truthdig – If you are poor, you will almost never go to trial—instead you will be forced to accept a plea deal offered by government prosecutors. If you are poor, the word of the police, who are not averse to fabricating or tampering with evidence, manipulating witnesses and planting guns or drugs, will be accepted in a courtroom as if it was the word of God. If you are poor, and especially if you are of color, almost anyone who can verify your innocence will have a police record of some kind and thereby will be invalidated as a witness.
By Nancy Price, for the Alliance for Democracy. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most revolutionary 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” marked his movement, from civil rights to a critique of capitalism, a year before he died. Looking “beyond Vietnam,” King questioned a US policy of interventions in foreign countries to defeat not only “Communist tyranny,” but any opposition to the corporate-capitalist system of imperialism and oppression that protects corporate interests and the wealth and power of the ruling classes. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people,” he said, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
By Rev. Osagyefo Sekou for Truthout. Democracy is dead. It has always been an afflicted creature – hobbling about – wounded at its very being. An enslaving disposition corrupted the United States before it matured. Its spiritual death was foretold, but the nation refused to hear the black voices crying out in the wilderness. A year before the racist, materialist and militaristic ax cut King down, he warned the nation of its demise. The now infamous “A Time to Break the Silence” speech at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, was a stern warning against the maladies of the American spirit – materialism, racism and militarism. The year between the Riverside speech and his assassination proved to be a radical one. As though he was racing against death’s chariot, King accelerated his critique of the United States and took up more radical tactics.
By Adam Johnson for Alternet – Of the five Republican debates and of the three Democratic debates, not one moderator has askeda question involving the words “poverty” or “poor.” While the subject has been touched upon by some of the Democratic candidates, namely Bernie Sanders and briefly Jim Webb, the topic has been entirely unmentioned by the moderators during the three Democratic debates. In the GOP debates, the candidates only bring up the topic as a way to swipe President Obama, which is fair enough but is not a discussion of poverty much less a good-faith attempt to mitigate it.
By Steven Maxwell for Activist Post – Every activist has read the increasing number of stories where homelessness is being criminalized, as if simply being homeless isn’t punishment enough. However, there is a rising tide among all walks of life that is beginning to view homelessness in a very different light. As a sinking economy and the criminal actions of the banking elite are leading many middle class, stable families into abject poverty, it is becoming much easier to identify with the less fortunate the closer their plight appears to be.
By Hamilton Nolan for Gawker – The working poor need more money. “But retail stores can’t raise wages very much—their profit margins are too small,” say conservatives. Aha—but there is a solution! All types of people across the political spectrum agree that people who work hard should not have to live in poverty. Movements like The Fight for 15 have focused on raising the incomes of the lowest-paid workers by forcing low-paying industries like fast food to raise their hourly wages. Which is fine. They need a higher income. But the most common response from corporations that employ lots of low wage workers is simply: we can’t afford it. Our profit margins are too thin.
By Marla Kilfoyle for Badass Teachers Association – As much as corporate education reformers (and we will include the USDOE in this category) want you to believe that standardized testing is used to help children, educators know the truth. What the USDOE issued on Dec. 22nd shows in full transparency that the testing agenda is not about helping children but more about making sure testing companies get their profits, and data mongers get their data. On December 22nd, the USDOE sent a threatening letter to the Chief State School Officers regarding opt out. Ann Whelan wrote the letter and specifically stated, “ED may take enforcement action.
By Robert Hennelly for Salon. Earlier this month when Fed chair Janet Yellen offered her rationale for raising interest rates, it was sadly reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech, given on the USS Abraham Lincoln when he declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over in 2003. Yellen spoke from her well-feathered perch about the “considerable progress that has been made restoring jobs, raising incomes, and easing the economic hardship of millions of Americans.” A few days later Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill and $700 billion in tax breaks before they went on their holiday. The president signed off on it all and headed off for his spectacular vacation to Hawaii.
By Darcy Penner for Rabble – Poverty reduction has no silver bullet. Nor should we expect one. The exhausting and overwhelming work of reducing poverty must take a comprehensive, long-term approach that is led by the communities in need. These communities, who struggle against poverty and social exclusion every day, have repeatedly said this work requires more than a simple transfer of money. Last month, an editorial by the Winnipeg Free Press reflected on a recently published a report that highlighted Manitoba’s persistent and disheartening poverty rates.